A Palestinian detainee who was in solitary confinement died under mysterious circumstances at an Israeli jail on July 16, raising suspicions that he had been tortured by prison authorities. The detainee, Nasser Majed Taqatqa (31), died at the Nitzan prison in the city of Ramleh.
Nasser was detained on June 19 when Israeli security forces raided his family home in the town of Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Israeli authorities said he was suspected of “activity against the state.”
Nasser was first taken to the al-Maskobiyya interrogation facility in occupied East Jerusalem, following which he was transferred to the investigation center of al-Jalameh for interrogation. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) stated that Nasser was tortured during interrogation at both the facilities.
The PPS said that based on the autopsy report, he had suffered extreme abuse and torture, and had also contracted pneumonia but had not received the necessary treatment. According to the PPS, “the torture, and being denied the urgently needed medical attention, led to fatal complications.”
The Palestinians Detainees Committee also reported that even though Nasser’s skin was starting to show signs of infection and his body had become very weak, Israeli prison authorities did not take him to a hospital. The committee also said he had suffered fractures and his body had bruise marks, as well as signs of being cuffed and shackled.
Other Palestinian detainees have also testified that they saw Nasser being forced into solitary confinement at the Megiddo prison in the Negev. He was also reportedly handcuffed to the bed and beaten up.
On July 14, Nasser was taken to the hospital in Nitzan prison in a stretcher. Other prisoners reported that he was in a critical condition. Two days later, he was found dead in his room in the prison hospital, according to the head of the PPS, Qaddoura Fares.
Abdul-Nasser Ferwana, the head of the Studies and Documentation Unit at the Palestinian Detainees Committee and a former detainee himself, said that the number of detainees who had died in Israeli prisons and detention centers due to torture, lack of medicines and treatment, and diseases contracted while in prison, since 1967, stands at 220.
He added that many others had died soon after being released due to similar reasons.
The PPS also rejected claims by Israeli prison authorities that Nasser was suffering from pre-existing health conditions which had led to his sudden, untimely death. His family too strongly refuted these claims, saying that he was a “strong and perfectly healthy young man”, who had never been hospitalized in his life.
Nasser’s uncle, Mohammad Taqatqa, said that as far as the family was concerned, he was executed in cold blood. Nasser’s death also generated immense anger among the other Palestinian detainees in the prison, who refused to take their meals in protest on Tuesday. The Israeli prison service was put on high alert and prisoners’ lawyers were also prevented from meeting their clients on that day.
Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer says that there are currently 5,250 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and detention centers, including 205 children and 44 women. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel has arrested more than 1 million Palestinians since 1948.